• SECAmb made “insufficient progress” 
  • Latest trust to run into trouble with Ofsted
  • Walsall Healthcare Trust deregistered after “inadequate” Ofsted rating

An ambulance trust has been temporarily barred from training new apprentices after a critical report from the education regulator.

South East Coast Ambulance Service Foundation Trust is the latest trust judged to have made “insufficient progress” in a monitoring report from the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. Ofsted started inspecting NHS trusts in their role as apprenticeship providers last October.

So far, the regulator has inspected 24 trusts, of which six were deemed to have made “insufficient” progress. In addition, Walsall Healthcare Trust received a full inspection late last year, as it was an existing provider, and was found to be “inadequate”.

The SECAmb inspection found apprentices were not set development targets and governance was not strong enough. Meanwhile, operational managers were unaware of apprentices’ progress so could not support their learning, skills and behaviour or link it to their work. Feedback to apprentices was poor with some waiting months to have work returned and trainers paid insufficient attention to developing apprentices’ Maths and English skills.

The trust had 132 apprentices when it was inspected in July, of which two-thirds were training as emergency support workers. The trust expects to complete all current courses for all those currently enrolled. However, because it was deemed to have made “insufficient” progress, it cannot take on any new apprentices until Ofsted reinspects it (see box below: How Ofsted ratings work). 

In a statement, SECAmb said it was taking action “to ensure it delivers the best possible standard of education and training to current and future staff”.

It added: “We have decided to undertake a planned, six-week closure of the trust’s clinical education department. This temporary closure, beginning on 11 September 2019, will see a pause in the delivery of most classroom-based learning and will allow the trust to undertake a thorough gap analysis before implementing improvement measures.

“Following the pause, we are confident that, by working with staff and utilising support from a range of external sources, we will be able to resume delivery of a full programme of education and training.”

The other trusts found to have made insufficient progress in one or more areas during monitoring visits were Mersey Care Trust, University Hospitals Bristol FT, King’s College Hospital FT, Central and North West London FT, and Poole Hospital FT.

Walsall Healthcare Trust was judged “inadequate” in January and subsequently deregistered. Since then it has been unable to train apprentices itself and has had to appoint an external provider for all off-the-job training for them. It said it had now put in place an improvement plan covering partnership working, and improved reporting and governance but is unsure whether it will apply to be put back on the register.

Trusts have been rushing to appoint apprentices since the apprenticeship levy’s introduction in 2017. This means they have to pay 0.5 per cent of their pay bill into a digital fund. That money, plus a 10 per cent uplift from government, can then be accessed over the following 24 months to support apprenticeships.

However, some trusts have found it challenging to claim back all the money they have to put in. Last month, HSJ reported that they found the system inflexible. Overall, the NHS contributes £200m a year through the apprenticeship levy.

How Ofsted ratings work

Trusts which are existing providers will have a full Ofsted inspection and be given a rating similar to those used by the Care Quality Commission – “oustanding”, “good”, “requires improvement” and “inadequate”. 

However, many trusts have only recently registered with Ofsted, specifically because they are training apprentices. They will receive a new providers “monitoring visit”. In these cases, they will be judged to have made “insufficient”, “reasonable” or “substantial” progress in three areas. These areas are:

  • Meeting the requirements of successful apprenticeship provision;
  • High quality training and achieving positive outcomes; and
  • Effective safeguarding arrangements.

Those judged to have made “insufficient” progress in either or both of the first two areas will have a full inspection within a year and cannot take on any new apprentices until Ofsted has undertaken another visit and found improvements. In extreme cases, they can be removed from the apprentice training provider register.